I liked Lisbon. It sort of feels like a city that isn’t sure which way it wants to go, upscale and trendy or sort of seedy with a touch of pizzazz thrown in. I saw many more beggars, for example, than I saw in Rome and Barcelona. I suspect however this may be because Lisbon is not quite cool/touristy enough to ensure that beggars are not in the touristy areas. I also saw amazing little shops and cafés though and just beautiful architecture.
Lisbon is known for its painted tiles on the sides of buildings. At any point in time you might look up and see an intricate design with a mixture of blue and yellow tiles. Many of the streets are still cobblestone and are so narrow that only one lane of traffic can travel down them. The city itself is very hilly. It made me think of my alma mater (Ohio University) in Athens, Ohio where one had to go “uptown” instead of downtown because of all the hills. Lisbon is a much bigger town than Athens though… it has almost 1 million people… and the hills are, much, much steeper.
One of the appealing things about Lisbon is the very interesting public transportation system. In addition to an excellent Metro system, Lisbon has a series of trams (San Francisco style cable cars) and “elevadors” (which are a crazy cross between a cable car and a funicular) that travel up and down certain, steep, hills. In my opinion, the elevador was more interesting than the tram… the hills it went up and down were so tight and twisty you litterly could have reached out and touched the building next you (for obvious reasons, I didn’t try my theory).
The day in Lisbon began with yet another early departure from the ship. I’m starting to see the same people every time we get off the ship as soon as we are permitted to, I guess people who are doing the town “on there own” tend to be early birds. Once on land, Dennis, Jennifer and I headed to the nearest Metro station to buy an all day pass that would allow us to travel the Metro, tram, bus and elevador system (quite the bargain at 4 Euros, if you ask me).
Our first destination of the day was the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The castle, which was first built in 1147 by a gang of crusaders, sits high atop a hill overlooking the city and port of Lisbon. The best way get up is take the #28 Tram, which has so much historic significance itself it has its own paragraph in the guidebook I bought.
Once atop the hill we paid the entrance fee, entered the castle and (as promised) were rewarded by amazing views that stretched for miles. The castle structure was also kind of fun, full of old passageways and random trees in random courtyards. There were also many Portuguese cats who lived nearby… clearly they are use to prowling the slippery rock walls of the castle.
After about an hour we wandered out of the castle to check out the surrounding neighborhoods. On the rocky hillside below the castle was the Alfama neighborhood. Alfama is known for its winding, narrow streets, many of which are not really streets but stairways that lead down to the next set of houses. Jennifer and I wanted to see a museum on the history of Fado music (basically Portuguese Blues) but it was at the bottom of the Alfama district not near any public transportation.
We decided to walk down through the neighborhood as going down is much easier than going up. When we eventually found the museum (at the bottom of the hill along the water) we discovered that it is closed for renovation. By this time the three of us were hungry so se stopped in a café where we each had a tasty hamburger and Coca-Cola Lite (Diet Coke) for a whopping 3 Euros a piece… so far I’m loving the prices of Lisbon.
After lunch we walked back to the Metro stop nearest to the central square and then went to the Rossio area of the city. Here we wandered the large tree lined boulevard and eventually hopped the Elevador de Gloria (pictured above) for a ride to the Baiirro Alto district. Once at the top of the hill we relaxed in a nearby park before deciding to head back down and going our separate ways (Dennis back to the ship while J and I stuck around for some shopping).
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) it was after 1:00 PM and before 3:00 PM which meant that most smaller shops (the one’s we were interested in) were on “siesta” and would not open until after 3:00 PM. To kill time, we went to a little diner and tried the local cervesa. The best part? 3.25 Euros for two beers!!!
We ended up heading back to the ship around 4:00 PM. Jen and I skipped the formal dinning and enjoyed a little relaxation time before heading to the Lido for the buffet. We then met Grace in the movie theatre for the evening showing of Atonement. The 11:00 PM buffet last night was a chocolate extravaganza. The ship was pitching and rolling so much, however, that I didn’t feel like chocolate. The event was held on the Lido deck by the pool and I gotta tell you, when there are little whitecaps in the pool you know you are in for a rough night!
Today we are at sea on our way to Le Havre, the port to Paris and the coast of Normandy. The sea has still been pretty rough and my stomach is still not very happy with me. I wouldn’t say that I’m sea sick as I’ve not actually been “sick” (if you know what I mean) but I feel kind of woozy and wobbly, almost as if I’ve had a few too many drinks. The temperature has also taken a turn, it is colder and windier now, enough so that it’s too cold to go outside and sit for long periods of time.
Tomorrow we will be at sea for a second straight day. The entire Ferreter family has signed up to participate in a 5K walk around the promenade deck (it works out to about 11 laps) in support of the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation. Tomorrow afternoon we plan to have high tea with Mark and Leslie and then tomorrow night is the final formal night of the cruise.
On Monday we will be docked in Le Havre, about 2.5 hours outside of Paris. No one in our group is going into Paris as the commute just seems too long and not worth the effort (who wants to spend 5 hours getting to Paris so you can spend less than that exploring the city?) I would like to try and get to Rouen, about an hour from the port, which is best known in history as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
Tuesday we disembark early in the morning in Harwich (the port of London). All four of us are taking the HAL transfer to the airport before splitting one final time. Jennifer will be flying home to Newark (well, technically home is Manhattan) that night and Dennis, Grace and I are flying out the next morning. I have to admit that, while this trip has been amazing, I’m ready to go home.
With our upcoming travel plans in mind, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post again until after I get home. If I can, wonderful, if not then I hope to see everyone when I’m back on the states… Via Chicago of course (grin).